Boris Karloff stars in the role that made him a screen legend in this, the second sequel to the famous horror classic. The son of Dr. Frankenstein returns to the ancestral gamily castle 25 years after the explosive death of the monster. There he meets Ygor a mad shepherd who is hiding the comatose body of the creature. Hoping to clear the family name, the young Dr. Frankenstein revives the creature and attempts to rehabilitate him. But his noble goals are circumvented when Ygor send the creature on a killing spree that spreads a new panic in the village.
Mild spoilers follow ...
- Son of Frankenstein review by NP
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You rated this film: 3
Due to unexpected popularity (which caused round-the-block queues) of the original ‘Dracula’ and ‘Frankenstein’ re-screenings, Universal at last lifted their curfew on horror pictures with this hugely budgeted, star-studded sequel to the mighty ‘Bride of Frankenstein.’
Alongside Basil Rathbone’s ambitious Baron Wolf Von Frankenstein, the viewer is literally transported from the real world into a vast, rain-lashed and unforgiving removed reality of horror via a train journey that really does traverse from one to the other very effectively. The town (now also called ‘Frankenstein’) is populated by those who want nothing to do with the new Baron, his wife, or his mop-headed, curiously Texan-sounding son Peter (played by future voice artist for Bambi, Donnie Dunagan). Understandably, they remember well the chaos brought about by Henry Frankenstein’s creation, or more accurately, their own townsfolk’s brutal treatment of him.
Rathbone is brilliant in this, transforming from impetuous family man to hysterical ‘mad doctor’ with great skill. Bela Lugosi plays Ygor in one of his greatest performances, a part that was strengthened in order to give Lugosi a greater share of the action. Lionel Atwill, enjoyable in any part, gets probably his best role – that of Inspector Krogh, the wooden armed Police Inspector determined to protect both Wolf’s family and the townsfolk.
The sets are huge and expressionist, casting great shadows and rising imperiously above the tremendous cast, and the music used here would crop up again and again in future, less well-funded Universal horrors and mysteries.
So why does this film seem slightly disappointing to me?
Even after all this time, I still cannot answer that. Could it be that Peter, such an integral part, is entrusted to a four year old? Dunagan is a terrific performer for his age, but perhaps if the role was given to someone slightly older, they could invest it with just a hint of gravitas. Could it be that a thicker, jowlier Boris Karloff is given a strange sheepskin vest (presumably by friend Ygor, who upstages him regularly) and given no scenes of sympathy as he was so effectively in earlier films? Could it be that the film is just slightly overlong, and suffered from an unfinished script at the time of filming, which as a result, means that it plods – rather like the monster – in places?
I don’t know why I’m less than satisfied by this. Maybe it is because it follows what I consider the greatest film of all time? There’s no doubt that so many elements are excellent here, and this clearly is one of the last Universal horrors to benefit from a generous budget (indeed it was their final ‘A’ production for a Frankenstein film).